The 128th US Championships (also known as the US “Trials” for the Paris World Championships) opened on Thursday at Stanford University’s Cobb Track and Angell Field with a long programme dominated by elimination rounds. Included was action from four of America’s gold medallists from last winter’s World Indoor Championships, and while three of them slipped through for another day of competition, one exited the championships much earlier than had been expected.
Justin Gatlin, who so decisively won the 60 Metres indoor title in Birmingham and has been considered a bona fide new addition to the top echelon of American sprinting, found himself in the ignominious position of being the fastest non-qualifier in the 100 metres. The 21-year-old native of Florida posted a lacklustre 10.32, which placed him fourth in a heat won in 10.06 by Bernard Williams .
Gatlin, who last year left his university team after two seasons to become a professional, has been training in Raleigh with Trevor Graham, and was superb in relay competition at the Penn Relays in late April. But the holder of three individual national collegiate titles was not able to overcome the effects of a hamstring strain suffered at the Mexico Grand Prix meeting in early May.
For the other top sprinters, the opening round of the 100 was just “another day at the office”. Alongside Williams came heat wins by J.J. Johnson (10.10), Tim Montgomery (10.04), and Kaaron Conwright (10.16), as the races were contested down the backstretch of Cobb Track to take advantage of aiding winds.
All eyes were on Montgomery, the new World Record holder enjoying his first Championships as the bearer of the American sprint banner, and he expressed satisfaction with his first outing.
“My plan was to run fifty metres and then shut it down, and that’s just what I did,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised that it was [as fast as] 10.04, because on Friday I think you’re going to see some very special racing from Tim Montgomery.”
The women’s 100 metres heats saw no notable casualties, as only three of nineteen entrants were eliminated.
In an astounding cluster of talent in a single heat, Torri Edwards (11.00w) and Kelli White (11.00w) led Inger Miller (11.10w) and Angela Williams (11.29w) into the finish, aided by a 3.1 wind, as all four advanced to the final.
Gail Devers, who has been inactive the past month with hamstring problems, seemed to be recovered as judged by her 11.15 heat win against a headwind of 0.6, while Chryste Gaines, recently plagued with back problems, was a distant second (11.27). The remaining race was won by the runner-up in last week’s NCAA Championships, Muna Lee (11.16).
World Indoor 800 metres champion David Krummenacker ran a relaxed 1:49.73 behind heat winner Khadevis Robinson (1:49.32), as both moved on to Friday night’s semifinals.
Afterwards, Krummenacker revealed, “I had no plans to run here after hurting my right hamstring in Monday training. I was sending e-mails to everyone telling them I would not participate. It’s a miracle that I’m here.”
The fastest 800 time came from Lubert Lewis (1:48.05), as the newly crowned NCAA champion, Sam Burley, won the remaining section in 1:48.74.
Although defending Women’s 800 Metres champion Nicole Teter was the slowest heat winner with 2:05.26, she was in control all of the way and seems to be free of the complex list of injuries—plantar faciatis, stress fracture, tendinitis--which have limited her programme the past year. A pair of sisters-in-law, Hazel Clark (2:04.60) and former World 400 Champion Jearl Miles Clark (2:04.73) moved through to the semifinal, along with Teter’s training partner, Chantee Earl (2:04.26).
Another World Indoor champion, Tyree Washington, led all qualifiers in the Men’s 400 Metres with 45.26, as the Minnesota pair atop the world list, Adam Steele (46.33) and Mitch Potter (46.17), also moved ahead without incident.
Running tightly behind Washington was Calvin Harrison (45.35), as his twin brother, Sydney silver medallist Alvin, finished third in a following section with 46.60, behind Potter and heat winner Jerome Young (45.81). Sprinter-turned-400 runner JaWarren Hooker was also victorious in 45.72, as was Derrick Brew (45.78).
After her stunning US junior record last Saturday in winning the NCAA championships, Sanya Richards ran comparatively easily tonight, but her 51.81 was still the fastest in the Women’s 400 Metres field. Right behind Richards was unheralded Julian Clay at 52.09.
Other heat winners were Demetria Washington (52.15) and MeLisa Barber (52.52).
Nearing her 40th birthday, which will come during the World Championships in late August, World Indoor 1500 Metres Champion Regina Jacobs paced all of the contestants in that event with a 4:11.22 time. The other section was won by Suzy Favor Hamilton (4:12.42) who herself will celebrate a milestone 35th birthday in August. Close behind Favor Hamilton was one of America’s bright middle-distance hopes, NCAA champion Tiffany McWilliams (4:13.12).
Although inactive for the past two seasons, Joanna Hayes led the Women’s 400 Hurdles heats with a 55.83, as World Junior Champion Lashinda Demus (56.64) and Tiffany Ross (56.29) joined her as section winners. The holder of the last four US titles, Sandra Glover, also advanced to the semifinals just behind Ross with 56.35.
The two heats of the men’s Steeplechase were remarkably even at the front end. Atlanta Olympian Robert Gary (8:30.62) and Thomas Kloos (8:30.74) had the two fastest times running one-two in the final section, after two-time NCAA champion Daniel Lincoln had posted a 8:30.75 ahead of defending champion Anthony Famiglietti (8:31.03).
Two track events were decided on the first evening of the Championships.
The new American record holder in the Marathon, Deena Drossin, made her first track appearance of 2003 a victorious one with a 31:28.97 win in the Women’s 10,000 metres. Drossin pulled away from the rest of the competitors well before the halfway point, but Elva Dryer put on a spirited finish to close within seven seconds of Drossin at 31:35.74. Katie McGregor’s 31:54.78 captured third place, but her time is just short of the 31:45.00 entry standard needed for Paris participation.
In the Men’s 10,000 metres, Alan Culpepper broke open a duel with US record holder and two-time American champion Mebrahtom Keflezighi with a half lap remaining and reclaimed the crown he first won in 1999. The 30-year-old Culpepper clocked 27:55.36 ahead of Meb’s 27:57.59, as Dan Browne (28:03.48) outkicked Weldon Johnson (28:06.58) to complete the trio destined for Paris.
Three throwing events were among the finals on this first day of competition.
In the Hammer Throw, Melissa Price added almost three metres to her previous season (and personal) best with a 70.34 performance to win her first national title, ahead of the US list leader Anna Norgren-Mahon (69.04). The third team spot was taken by six-time US champion Dawn Ellerbe at 66.76.
Adam Setliff, the winner of the last three US crowns in the Men’s Discus and the fifth placer in both Sydney and Edmonton, had his winning streak stopped by the relatively unknown Carl Brown. The 33-year-old Brown padded his previous PB by almost 2½ metres for an easy-to-remember 66.66. Setliff nonetheless managed a creditable 62.92 in his first competition of the year, and Doug Reynolds (62.71) edged Joshua Ralston (62.66) for third. Neither Setliff nor Reynolds has achieved the required A-standard of 64.60, however.
The Women’s Discus was led by first-time champion Aretha Hill with 63.98, as last year’s world leader Suzy Powell (62.58) and Edmonton sixth-placer Seilala Sua (60.01) took the next two spots. Like Setliff and Reynolds, Sua will be chasing the “A” qualifying standard of 63.40 in the remaining seven weeks before the close of the qualification window on 13 August.
Kim Schiemenz leads the women’s heptathlon after the first day with 3617, as Edmonton bronze medallist Shelia Burrell trails by 57 at 3560, with Tiffany Lott-Hogan just behind at 3538. Sydney finalist and Edmonton seventh placer DeDee Nathan is well within striking distance in fourth place with 3476, as she attempts to make a fifth US World Championships team at age 35.
Complete results may be found at www.flashresults.com